25 influential arizona musicians
Things To Do
For free monthly updates, event invitations and exclusive deals, sign-up for our newsletter!
25 Influential Arizona Musicians
May, 2013, Page 102
Photo: Tom Marcello
Arizona music is as deep and vast as the Grand Canyon, so choosing 25 of the most influential Copper State greats was a tough act. We placed a high value on professional esteem (artists who’ve written/produced for or inspired others, and are considered pioneers in their genres), community impact (support for local business/charities/music), and to a lesser extent, commercial success. We also wanted the list to reflect the diversity of Arizona music – like a radio listener twisting dials through snippets of songs, you can catch and tune in to something you like, whether that’s vintage country, classic rock, New Wave, heavy metal, or the blues.
The legendary jazz player was born on an Army Base in Nogales, Arizona in 1922. He died of Lou Gehrig’s disease in Mexico in 1979.
Though Charles Mingus spent most of his life in L.A. and New York City, a more influential jazz musician has yet to be born on Arizona soil. A double-bass player, composer and bandleader, Mingus was a forerunner of free jazz and a pioneer of fusion jazz, combining the fiery vibes of hard bop with dashes of black gospel and classical music, sometimes in explosive collective jams so cohesive they were more like alchemy than improvisation. Mingus was inspired by Duke Ellington, with whom he later played, and Dizzy Gillespie once said Mingus reminded him “of a young Duke” because of their shared “organizational genius.” One of Mingus’ earliest gigs was touring with Louis Armstrong in 1943, and throughout the ’50s, he played with Ellington, Gillespie, and Charlie Parker. But it was Mingus’ own complex compositions and strengths as a bandleader that made him a legend. He made 30 records in the 1960s alone, and rock and pop artists from Elvis Costello to Joni Mitchell have written lyrics for his works. In 1993, the Library of Congress acquired Mingus’ papers (including scores and recordings) in what they called “the most important acquisition of a manuscript collection relating to jazz in the Library’s history.”
Photo: ABC Television
Owens’ family moved to Mesa in 1937 via Sherman, Texas. He moved to Bakersfield, California in 1951, where he died of an apparent heart attack in 2006.
No matter what a country star tries to do today, Buck Owens did it first. Hit records? Beginning in 1965, he racked up 21 No. 1 hits on the Billboard country music charts with his band, The Buckaroos, which pioneered the backbeat-driven “Bakersfield sound.” Be a rebel? His music bucked the early 1960s pop-influenced “countrypolitan” trend for a more barn-burnin’ vibe. Be a regular on a TV show? From 1969-1986, he co-hosted Hee Haw with Roy Clark. Have The Beatles cover your songs? They tackled Owens’ “Act Naturally” on Help! Own a radio station? Owens had several, including local country hot dial KNIX-FM, which he sold in 1999. Have a tabloid-torrid dating life? OK, we’ve gotta give that to Taylor Swift, but she’s not in the Country Music Hall of Fame. Owens was inducted in 1996.
The Meat Puppets’ Curt Kirkwood on Buck Owens
: “KNIX was his station and was listened to a lot around the house, in the truck driving around, and ‘Buckaroo’ was a big song for me... We still cover ‘Buckaroo.’”
Photo: Pinguino K
Moved to Phoenix from Detroit as a teenager in the 1960s. Graduated from Cortez High School, class of ’66. Currently lives in Paradise Valley.
It sounds like the beginning of a joke but ends with a choke hold: Alice Cooper, Liza Minnelli, and porn actress Linda Lovelace walk into Elvis Presley’s penthouse... and Cooper briefly contemplates shooting Elvis with the King’s revolver until Presley kicks it out of his hand and pins him in a self-defense lesson. It’s just one of the many bizarre chapters in Cooper’s rangy rock ‘n’ roll reality: pose naked with snake, tear wings off a live chicken, sell more than 50 million records. Along the way, he pioneered a hard rock, creepy-cabaret stage show to spawn the likes of Marilyn Manson and Rob Zombie; was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (2011); opened a Downtown Phoenix restaurant (Alice Cooper’stown); founded a charity (the Solid Rock Foundation); and, of course, played a lot of golf. Because beneath all the smoke and fake-blood-streaked mirrors, “No More Mr. Nice Guy” is totally copacetic.
Judas Priest singer Rob Halford on Alice Cooper
: “When Alice came onto the rock and roll scene, he was literally a game-changer. When he started to do all of those crazy things on stage, he got instant focus, not only in America, but worldwide, and he still maintains that ability.”
Photo: Carl Lender
Born in Tucson to a prominent Arizona ranching family that includes the former Tucson Chief of Police (her brother, Peter) and the namesake of the city’s central transit terminal (her grandfather, Federico). Currently lives in San Francisco but maintains a home in Tucson.
Linda Ronstadt ruled the 1970s. Though she got plenty of attention for dating then-and-now California governor Jerry Brown, the visceral-voiced songstress earned her press the honest way. On the strength of hits like “You’re No Good” and a cover of the Everly Brothers’ “When Will I Be Loved,” she racked up four consecutive platinum albums, packed arenas across the country, and sold more than 100 million
records worldwide. She’s also won 12 Grammy Awards (including a Lifetime Achievement Grammy in 2010) and an Emmy Award. Her Chicano rock influences, emotive interpretive singing, and wide repertoire (she’s done everything but hip-hop) helped change the vocal fabric of rock, making it thicker and richer, yet more revealing.
Photo: Eddie Malluk
The England-born singer of heavy metal band Judas Priest moved to Phoenix in the early 1980s. He has homes in several cities but maintains his primary residence here.
You know the image of the heavy metal singer who walks out, raises a fist, and hits a note so high it shatters glass? Rob Halford is that guy. Except he usually rides his motorcycle onstage instead of walking. With a stunning vocal range of nearly four octaves, Halford set the bar for metal singers everywhere. Judas Priest has sold more than 45 million albums worldwide, their best-known release being the 1980 album British Steel, featuring the heavy-radio-rotation songs “Breaking the Law” and “Living After Midnight.” Partly because they’ve influenced every metal band from Metallica to Iron Maiden, VH1 named Judas Priest the second greatest metal band ever, behind Black Sabbath.
Photo: Deed Eddy
Born in Corning, New York, Eddy moved to Tucson with his family in 1951 before relocating to Coolidge. He currently lives in Nashville.
Lucky for us, Duane Eddy chose guitar-picking over cotton-picking as a youngster in Coolidge. His subterranean twang and springy reverb (imagine hearing the low notes of a guitar under water) were the chords that fathered rockabilly. Eddy’s 1958 song “Rebel Rouser” cemented his signature sound, created by playing lead parts on his guitar’s bass strings. He’d sold 12 million records by 1963, quite a feat in rock ‘n’ roll’s adolescent years, and became a regular act on The Dick Clark Show before producing albums for Phil Everly and Waylon Jennings. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994, and in 2004, he became the second recipient of Guitar Player magazine’s “Legend Award” (after Les Paul).
Bluesman Hans Olson on Duane Eddy
: “Every guitar player of my generation owes a big debt to his sound. The first time I heard his guitar, I knew I had to keep playing and get that sound. It was mostly just his reverb sound that lit a fire under all the guitar players of the day.”
In the early 1980s, the Arkansas-born “Rhinestone Cowboy” moved to Phoenix, where he still maintains a home.
“It is a startling but true scientific fact that the only man-made things that can be seen from outer space are the Great Wall of China and Glen Campbell’s resume,” singer Chris Isaak wrote on grammy.com. It’s true Campbell’s rich country drawl, poured over layers of pristine country popped up by the occasional symphonic strings progression, is as recognizable to country music fans as Mickey Mouse ears are to tourist families. Campbell retired in 2012, after announcing he has Alzheimer’s, but he leaves an influential and
impressive legacy behind, flush with musical progenies like Alabama and George Strait, and hit singles like “Gentle on My Mind” and “By the Time I Get to Phoenix.”
Photo: Matt Becker
Born in Phoenix, Nicks maintained a full-time residence in Paradise Valley until moving to California in 2007. Her late father, Jess Nicks, owned bygone Chandler concert venue
Compton Terrace and was chairman of the Arizona Heart Institute for three decades.
With her layers of glittery lace and chiffon and her echoing tenor from outer space, nobody had seen anything like Stevie Nicks when she seemingly escaped from Fairyland and landed in Fleetwood Mac in 1974. Her solo career’s been no less striking or daring: She wore high-heeled stiletto boots while walking on a treadmill with an industrial fan blowing in her face for her “Stand Back” video in 1983, providing a visual metaphor for her uncanny ability to stand her ground (and stand out) in the face of anything, inspiring artists from the Dixie Chicks to Sheryl Crow. As a solo artist and a member of Fleetwood Mac, Nicks has racked up 13 Grammy Award nominations, more than 140 million in album sales, and more than 40 top 50 hits, including Fleetwood Mac’s only No. 1 song, “Dreams.” She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1998 (as a member of Fleetwood Mac).
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Michaels moved to Scottsdale in 2004.
Michaels came to fame as the singer of ’80s hair metal band Poison, which achieved a No. 1 hit in 1988 with “Every Rose Has Its Thorn.” But most people know Michaels chiefly from his appearances on reality shows like VH1’s
Rock of Love
Celebrity Apprentice 3
All-Star Celebrity Apprentice
. In other words, he’s one of those celebs that’s famous for being famous, but Michaels does way more to earn his stripes than, say, Paris Hilton. He runs three businesses – Michaels Entertainment Group Inc., Last Child Productions, and Poor Boy Records – along with his charity, Bret Michaels Life Rocks Foundation. He’s donated to local organizations including Barrow Neurological Institute, where he was treated for a brain hemorrhage in 2010, and has a line of pet clothing called Pets Rock at PetSmart.
Photo: RCA Records
Texan Jennings moved to Coolidge, Arizona (then to Phoenix) in 1961. He died from diabetic complications at his home in Chandler in 2002.
Though he found fame as one of the stalwarts of “outlaw country,” Jennings could have died in 1959, in the same plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, and “Big Bopper” J.P. Richardson. Jennings was Holly’s bass player, and the night of the crash, he’d given his seat to Richardson and taken the bus instead. After Holly’s death, Jennings abandoned upbeat rock for harrowing honky-tonk and the Outlaw movement of the 1970s, propagated by fellow artists like Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson, and Merle Haggard. Between 1966 and 1995, Jennings had 54 charting albums (including 11 No. 1 albums), one of which was the 1976 record Wanted! The Outlaws, the first platinum-selling country record. He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2001, and his spirit’s still heard in the songs of his son, Shooter Jennings, and artists like Steve Earle and Travis Tritt.
Photo: Ian Goodell
The Meat Puppets
The Meat Puppets
Formed in Phoenix in 1980 by brothers Curt and Cris Kirkwood, who attended Brophy College Preparatory high school. Currently based in Austin, Texas.
138 days before he committed suicide, Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain sat onstage in New York City for the taping of MTV Unplugged and single-handedly re-launched the career of two Valley bros. “These are the brothers Meat Puppets,” he announced, as Curt and Cris Kirkwood sat behind him. “We’re big fans of theirs.” The Kirkwood brothers played three of their songs with Nirvana that night – “Oh Me,” “Plateau,” and “Lake of Fire.” Their next album, 1994’s Too High to Die, was their ninth record, and the first to go gold. Though not a big-selling act, their reach has become iconic. The band’s blend of country, punk, and psychedelic rock helped establish the “cowpunk” genre, and the substance abuse-driven tribulations of Cris Kirkwood (Google “Cris Kirkwood shot at Phoenix post office”) endure as some of the most dismal drug tales in Arizona rock lore. Thankfully, the Meat Puppets carry on as a clean machine these days. Their latest album, Rat Farm, was released in April.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Born in Willcox in 1920. Died of a heart attack at his Tucson home in 1999.
“The Arizona Cowboy” was a star of screen and studio, parlaying his deep, velvety country croon into multiple hit records and movie roles. Allen started making records in 1948 and netted some hit singles, most notably “Crying in the Chapel” (1953) and the dark, dramatic folklore-filled “Don’t Go Near the Indians” (1962). Beginning in 1950, he starred in 19 Western movies and is said to have starred in the last singing cowboy Western (Phantom Stallion, 1954). Allen narrated numerous TV shows and Disney movies, as well as Hanna-Barbera’s 1973 animated film, Charlotte’s Web. He was given a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1975. The Rex Allen Museum in Willcox, opened in 1989, continues to honor this “last of the great singing cowboys,” as does his son, Rex Allen Jr., also a celebrated country singer and voice actor.
For the rest of
magazine’s '25 Influential Arizona Musicians', check back soon, find us at newsstands Valleywide or call 480-664-3960.
today so you don’t miss another issue!
© 2007 Copyright Phoenix Magazine 15169 N. Scottsdale Road Suite C310 Scottsdale Arizona 85254
Travel & Outdoors
Best of The Valley
Phoenix Home & Garden Magazine
Advertise With Us
Web Site Design